Help us change the law to make cycling safer in California!

There’s a new petition out to amend the California Vehicle Code to allow motorists to cross a double yellow center line to pass a bicyclist when safe to do so. Please sign the petition and help spread the word!

Visit matthewschange.org for more information.

By Greg Kline

Although the recent implementation of California’s 3 Feet for Safety Act has clearly informed motorists of the need to leave sufficient space when passing cyclists, it still does not fully address the needs of cyclists nor of motorists when it comes to narrow two-lane roads with long sections of double-yellow lines. Currently it is not legal for faster motorists to pass slower cyclists over a double yellow line, even when safe to do so. Drivers of motor vehicles are now forced to make the decision to either endanger a cyclist’s life and break the law (CVC 21760 three feet for safety act) by passing too closely or break another law (CVC 21460 double lines) by crossing a double yellow to pass safely.

The majority of roads in California, and almost all two-lane roads have lanes that are too narrow for cyclists to safely share with motor vehicles. Here’s why:

A bicycle is a two wheeled articulated vehicle that remains upright by balance.  A cyclist is approximately 2′ wide, and requires at minimum 12″ on either side for balance and minor obstacle avoidance. Assume a 4′ minimum operating space for a bicyclist, the operating width used by the AASHTO design manual and the guidelines set forth by the Federal Highway Administration.

If you add the 4′ operating space for a cyclist to the 3′ required for minimum legal safe passing clearance and 8.5′ (*excluding* mirrors) maximum vehicle width in California you come up with 15.5′. Most lanes in California are 10 to 12 feet wide and require moving into the next lane to safely pass a cyclist safely.

14' lane is too narrow to share
Graphic by Keri Caffrey iamtraffic.org


Most rural roads have lanes much narrower than 15.5′ and many miles of double yellow. It is unreasonable to assume that motor vehicle traffic will slow to the speed of cyclists until there is either a passing lane or a turnout. Faster vehicles will either pass unsafely and illegally (too closely) or just illegally (by crossing, at least partially, a double yellow).

Yet a previous version of California’s three foot law was specifically vetoed by Governor Brown for allowing for such passes when safe to do so:

California Senate Bill 1464

(f) The driver of a motor vehicle on a two-lane highway may drive to the left of either of the markings specified in subdivision (a) or (c) to pass a person operating a bicycle proceeding in the same direction if in compliance with Section 21751 and if both of the following conditions are met:

(1) The left side of the road is clearly visible and free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit overtaking and passing of the bicycle to be completely made without interfering with the safe operation of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction.

(2) The driver operates the motor vehicle to the left of either of the markings specified in subdivision (a) or (c) only to the extent reasonably necessary to comply with Section 21750.1.

Governor Brown’s reasoning in his veto of Senate Bill 1464 in September of 2012:

“Crossing a double yellow line is an inherently dangerous act that increases the risk of head-on collisions. When a collision occurs, it will result in a lawsuit where the state is likely to be sued as a “deep pocket.” By making it legal to cross a double yellow line, the bill weakens the state’s defense to these lawsuits.”

By vetoing SB 1464, and subsequently passing the watered down version that became law, Governor Brown prioritized the safety, speed and convenience of motorists, protected by airbags and crumple zones, over the lives and safety of cyclists who have no protections.

Governor Brown’s veto of SB 1464 and passage of Assembly Bill No. 1371 was a decision to not afford cyclists the same protections that other road users enjoy. As such, it does not shield the state from “deep pocket” lawsuits from cyclists. That may be what is required to amend the law to give cyclists the protection the 3′ law was intended to confer.

Many states have sensible laws that allow motorists to cross double yellows when passing a slow moving vehicle such as a cyclist or slow moving farm equipment. For example, here is Ohio’s statute.

§4511.31.  Hazardous zones

(A) The department of transportation may determine those portions of any state highway where overtaking and passing other traffic or driving to the left of the center or center line of the roadway would be especially hazardous and may, by appropriate signs or markings on the highway, indicate the beginning and end of such zones. …

(B) Division (A) of this section does not apply when all of the following apply:

   (1) The slower vehicle is proceeding at less than half the speed of the speed limit applicable to that location.

   (2) The faster vehicle is capable of overtaking and passing the slower vehicle without exceeding the speed limit.

   (3) There is sufficient clear sight distance to the left of the center or center line of the roadway to meet the overtaking and passing provisions of section 4511.29 of the Revised Code, considering the speed of the slower vehicle.

Comment:  Section 4511.31(B) should help reduce tension between cyclists and faster drivers.  Now, they can pass in “no passing” zones IF passing is safe.

By allowing faster traffic to pass slower cyclists when safe to do so, drivers of motor vehicles would not be forced to make the decision they now need to make in California: either endanger a cyclist’s life and break a law, or merely break a different law. The choice, obvious as it is, isn’t as clear as it needs to be. The three foot law needs to be amended to meet the needs of all road users.

crossing_double_yellow

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SoMoS: Santa Ana’s Inaugural Ciclovia

Last Sunday saw the first SoMoS, what will hopefully be a frequent, not just annual, “open-streets” event in Santa Ana. The city closed three miles of Main Street to motorized traffic from 9AM to 4PM and let people – on foot, on two wheels, on skateboards, on roller skates and even on kids’ yard toys – experience the street on a human scale and at a human pace.

If you haven’t done a ciclovia by bicycle before, you must. It is a different experience from anything you’ve done. You just can’t imagine how nice it is to be on a road, on a bicycle, without the noise and threat of cars pushing past. Three miles of road is more than it seems when you don’t have to do that obliging hurry along one feels the need to do when riding a bike among cars. When you leave, and re-merge with mainstream traffic, you might notice an interesting phenomenon: After experiencing a street on a human scale, you, on a bike, don’t feel out of place on other roads. It’s the cars that now seem out of place. Like football players at a ballet.

Oh, we (the OCBC) manned a tent and did our best to encourage more cycling. It was nice to sit and watch the myriad cyclists go by.

Some pics:

Happy cyclists

Cruising

Kids at the end of the day

One thing about October in Southern California: it can be hot. Witness the not-uncommon ice fight:

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Only Justice Will Help Save Lives

Stacy Kline, OCBC Board Member, was riding a few miles behind Matthew O’Neill when he was killed on Foxen Canyon Rd. The motorist, the 16 year old son of former Lt. Governor, Abel Maldonado,  failed to yield when overtaking Matthew on an open stretch of  a quiet, rural highway. Immediately following Matthew’s death, a campaign was started to explain to motorists why they should change lanes when passing a cyclist, and to amend the “Three Feet for Safety Act” to allow motorists to cross a solid yellow center line to pass a cyclist.

MatthewsChange.org

Stacy wrote this piece encouraging concerned citizens to submit Victim Witness Statements on Matthew’s behalf.

The preliminary hearing for the motorist who killed Matthew was held this past Friday. The case is in juvenile court which has different procedures than an adult criminal proceeding. On their way home to San Diego after the hearing, I spoke with Matthew’s parents about the case, and they mentioned that the court is now accepting Victim Impact Statements.

At this stage in the case, the Probation Department is charged with recommending formal or informal probation. The family and friends of Matthew feel that it is important that the defendant be given formal probation. For a charge of this magnitude, vehicular manslaughter, formal probation is the only option that will help bring closure to the family and friends of Matthew O’Neill. While informal probation is akin to a “slap on the wrist” and may simply give a message that says “don’t do it again,” formal probation is a structured program requiring regular contact with a probation officer and monitored activities such as community service which could include speaking to other young people about the serious consequences of poor judgement while driving. Without formal probation, it may be difficult to get the defendant arraigned (formally charged).

The O’Neill family strongly believes that Matthew’s death must have meaning beyond the loss of a beloved son, brother, fiancé, and friend. A ruling of delinquency in this case will send the message that killing a bicyclist carries a serious consequence. A ruling of delinquency in this case will set a precedent that more serious charges are warranted when a cyclist is killed due to the fault of a motorist. A ruling of delinquency in this case can serve as a deterrent to motorists who will think then think about the consequences of their actions before they pass a cyclist on the road.

To help the O’Neill family, it is important that the probation department receive as many Victim Impact Statements as possible, and as soon as possible, describing the impact Matthew O’Neill had on the lives of others. Letters are needed that describe Matthew’s cycling passion, concern for the success of other cyclists, contributions to the randonneuring community, continued quest for knowledge, love of lifelong learning, advocacy for those who could not advocate for themselves, and, above all, Matthew’s commitment to live life in the service of others.

Please email your letters to Terri Zuniga, the supervisor of the Victim Witness Program. Terri will deliver the emails to the probation department on Matthew’s behalf.

Terri Zuniga
Victim Witness Program Supervisor
tzuniga (at) co.santa-barbara.ca.usThis is the first step in changing the narrative about what it means to be a motorist. Real enforcement and meaningful penalties can make a real difference in making the roads safer for all road users, especially the most vulnerable, reflecting the essence of Matthew’s life work.
Best regards,
Stacy
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Silence in Laguna

From Les Miklosy, Laguna Streets:

It has been 3 months since John Colvin’s fatal-hit-and-run in Emerald Bay. In an email from his wife Joan I’ve learned she still has no accident report from the LBPD.

Following three separate motorcades, last month the LBPD reminded us again of our dedication to the sculpture memorial “Eternal Legacy” for fallen motor officer Jon Coutchie.

The city commission for the “Eternal Legacy” memorial art is $75,000. The total spent on LB safe cycling infrastructure from 2008 to present (6 years) is $5000 plus the Sharrow symbols on Glenneyre (about $250 each)

A search for ‘John Colvin’ gets 6 hits, a search for ‘Jon Coutchie’ gets 25 hits at the on-line newspaper Laguna Beach Independent.

Remember these events  when you ride your bicycle in Laguna Beach.

Another cover-up is almost complete,  residents will forget, all’s well in the feifdom.

— Les

We asked Les if there was any more information about the driver who killed John Colvin. He replied:

We don’t know who the kid is except by a newspaper account, 19yo. I learned separately the car has a Emerald Cove sticker on it- that’s a gated community within a gated community. The kid likely lives there.

The cops remain tight-lipped. The investigating officer is Sargent Louise Callus LBPD.

Joan is in NYC, her message was short, her meaning was “don’t call us we’ll call you” so I’ll not press her for details.

When we know more, we’ll post it here.

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